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As we move toward the weekend, extremely warm weather is blanketing much of the state. Thursday evening, areas of Bayfield and Ashland counties were hit by a second, high-wind storm, following last weekend's, which left massive flooding in its wake. Due to saturated soils from the previous storm, numerous trees were down in the region.
Water levels across the state are variable at this time, with some areas dropping to just above average and others, fed by the past storm and rain events, sitting much higher. This has led to large fluctuations in both angling pressure and angling success over the past week and weekend.
Those on the northeastern sections, between Manitowoc and Marinette, were seeing more consistent walleye success. Anglers in those counties were also landing catfish, smallmouth and sheepshead, with intermittent mentions of perch success. The smallmouth bass bite picked up this past week and anglers were catching bass of all sizes throughout Door County. Decent numbers of yellow perch are being caught off of Little Sturgeon Bay and Sawyer Harbor. Anglers fishing on the southeastern sections of Lake Michigan, from Kenosha all the way up to Sheboygan, were consistently landing chinook, coho and rainbow trout, with a smattering of browns and freshwater drum. Early in the week a large number of anglers caught their limit of trout and salmon on McKinley Pier in Milwaukee, but by Thursday the water temperature dropped down to 45 degrees and the fish moved out.
Anglers in the Northwoods were combatting washouts and road closures this week, but that didn't stop them from working up consistent musky action. Topwater baits near weed edges or beds have been successful. Largemouth bass have also settled into their summer patterns and decent catches are resulting. Smallmouth seem to have moved back to deeper water and walleye are proving similarly challenging. There has been some success for crappie, perch and rock bass, but sizable bluegill still remain tough to find.
Off the water and on the prairie, the bouquet of blooming flowers continues to change as spiked blazing star, rattlesnake master, American germander and more make their first appearance this year. Accompanying the growth are sounds and sights from cicadas, grasshoppers, butterflies and more.
With the second hay harvest of the year, turkey broods will be taking to the cut fields looking for the previously mentioned insects. Fawns are also beginning to move more independently from their mothers and feed on the plants around them. The elk bachelor bulls from the Clam Lake herd are still spread throughout the south part of the forest and their antlers are almost fully developed.
Blackberries and blueberries abound in the woods and edges of waterways and trails, get to them before the birds and have a fantastic, warm, weekend in Wisconsin's outdoors!
Upcoming State Natural Area Workdays
July 22 -Help remove invasive cattails in favor of native vegetation at the Pope Lake State Natural Area! In 2014 we successfully removed cattails from 2 acres on the east side of the SNA. In 2015 there were only a few dozen plants from the same area that held many hundreds last year. Consequently we will continue our efforts by removing cattails in the channel between Pope Lake and Manomin Lake on the south side. There are thousands of plants clogging the channel and we can use all the help we can get. See the 'Pope Lake workday [PDF]' listing for more information.
July 23 - Enjoy the warm weather at Observatory Hill State Natural Area! A large-scale restoration is taking place here and new gaps in the canopy have been created. Native seed has been spread but invasives like Japanese hedge parsley are threatening to take over. We will remove hedge parsley to encourage native plants to fill in the gaps. See the 'Observatory Hill workday [PDF]' listing for more information. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - Many areas of far northern Wisconsin continue to recover from the heavy rain and flooding that followed the deluge on the evening of July 11. There are still quite a few washouts and road closures, so any outdoor recreationalists should check ahead and be prepared for extended detours when traveling in parts of Ashland, Iron, Bayfield and Sawyer counties. With just some light rain the past week, most rivers and streams have dropped down to a more normal level and have allowed canoeists and anglers some fair conditions. Lake and flowage levels have also dropped a bit, though many are still several inches above average. With the constantly changing weather, angling success continues to be quite variable - though some nice catches have been made when conditions have been stable for a day or two. Musky have been providing the most consistent action and the fish are showing much more of a typical summer pattern. The best success has been coming from weed edges and over the weed beds, with top-water baits providing some very good action. Quite a few musky have been landed in the last week - most of the fish have been in the 34 to 40-inch size though a few up to 45 inches have also been reported. Fishing for largemouth bass has been fair to good, while the smallmouth have been a bit tougher to find. The largemouth have pretty much settled into their regular summer patterns and have been found in mid-depth woody cover, reed beds, bog edges, and along the deep weed lines. Soft plastics and fast-moving crank baits have produced some decent catches at times. With water temperatures in the mid-70s, the smallmouth seem to have moved to deeper water and have been tough to find at times. The smallies have been quite finicky and a few nice fish have been caught on a slow presentation of plastic finesse baits - worked near rocky structure in 12 to 16 feet of water (or deeper). Walleye action has been the most erratic and many anglers have just given up trying to catch this species during these dog days of summer. But a few anglers have figured out the bite and some nice catches have been made on leeches fished near deep-water rocky structure. Panfish action has been generally fair. Some decent catches of crappie, perch and rock bass continue to be made, with the larger bluegill still being a bit tougher to find. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau River State Forest ATV/UTV trails are in good condition except an area between the two small bridges, south of Hwy EE and north of Oxbo Drive. This area has some erosion due to the last storm. The forest is full of new life and this years' young are growing quickly. Little critters of all types are scurrying about. The elk bachelor bulls are still spread throughout the south part of the forest and their antlers are almost fully developed. We're not sure how many calves were born but we may have up to eight of them. The cow/calf groups (nursery groups) are starting to reform so the calves are moving around with the cows. A big 5x5 (five points on each antler) bull elk has been the center of attention in the south east section of the Forest. An osprey was seen off of Pelican Lake soaring over the area. Two eagle nests are on the north fork south of the headquarters and north of the Beaver Dam landing so when you are floating that area be on the lookout. Deer fawns seem to be healthy, frisky and somewhat plentiful. Bears have been observed by many of the forest staff and visitors, indicating good populations as well as plenty of grouse coveys and turkey broods. Coyotes and wolf pups have been observed by forest staff as well. We've been noticing some monarch butterflies, which are milkweed lovers. The milkweed is blooming and the Juneberries, blueberries, and raspberries are out. The black raspberries are red now so it will be a few weeks before they are ripe. Berries are plentiful this year. Wild bergamot, blackeyed susan, and basswoods are blooming. Sounds like the catfish fishing has been good on the Flambeau River. One man caught two muskies that were in the mid- 40- inch range within five minutes of each other. Some bass have been caught on the river right off the shore. Muskies have been biting on Mason Lake and the boat landings have been busy, so it seems like something is happening out there. The water levels are a bit high right now due to the storms that the north part of the state incurred though it is receding. People have been floating the river and enjoying the fast ride. The roadsides are being mowed so the visibility is better for drivers. Heat seems to be in the forecast through Friday though this weekend temps will be more normal but possible rain in the forecast Saturday. If you have a trip planned, be prepared. - Diane Stowell, visitor services associate
Woodruff DNR Service Center area
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Water levels are high and swimming conditions are great. Trails are in great condition at this time and be sure to bring along necessary protection from ticks and insects. Broods of turkeys are being seen along roadsides, and baby birds are following their parents through the trees begging for food. The forest is alive with its summer inhabitants. Daisies, black-eyed susans, loosestrife, yarrow, bird's foot treefoil and water lilies are painting the landscape. A few spots of fireweed are dotting the roadsides. Blueberries and raspberries are there for the picking if one knows where to look! - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
Marinette County - Sheepshead, catfish, and smallmouth are being caught on the lower portion of the Peshtigo River using live bait, plastics, and stick baits, both trolling, jigging, and still fishing. Salmon anglers out of Little River report no success fishing from the Peshtigo Light to the Green Can out of the mouth of the Menominee River. Perch anglers out of Little River are reporting catching fish in 6 to 8 feet of water adjacent to weed beds, many of the fish are small, and minnows have been the best bait although crawler pieces have produced some of the larger fish. Smallmouth sheepshead and catfish are being caught on the Menominee River by both shore anglers and boaters alike. The walleye bite on the Menominee River remains good with the fish being most active early mornings and in the evenings. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Oconto County - Panfish remain the main attraction below the Stiles Dam on the Oconto River. Live bait has worked the best fished on bottom or with a bobber. Anglers floating the river from Stiles down to River Road boat Ramp have been catching smallmouth using live bait or plastics or spinners. Walleye action remains good out of the Pensaukee Launch with anglers trolling crawler/harness in 7 to 17 feet of water. The walleye bite from Oconto Breakwater Park to Oconto Park II has been a bit slower. The smallmouth bite at the mouth of the Oconto River has been good with live bait, plastics, and other assorted hardware being used. Sheepshead and catfish are also being caught in goodly numbers. The perch bite has been slow to develop. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Fishing pressure was light out of Geano Beach, likely due to strong winds and scattered thunderstorms that Green Bay experienced in the middle of the week. For those anglers that managed to get out, walleye fishing was on fire. Anglers were catching about 1.5 keepers (15 inches or greater) per hour and catching short fish mixed in. Anglers were reporting that most of the walleyes came from trolling crawler harnesses in 18-20 feet of water. The biggest fish measured was 21.5 inches and was a healthy 4.5 pounds, with most of the fish being around 15-17 inches in length. Water temperatures were in the low 70s and water clarity was 2-3 feet. Along with walleyes, anglers were catching some big freshwater drum and a few channel catfish as well. -Derek Apps, fisheries technician, Green Bay
Brown County - Bayshore Park was hit or miss for walleye anglers this week. Jigging on or near reefs, in 15 to 18 feet of water, seemed to produce the best results. Lots of shorts (under 15 inches) continue to be caught but anglers also landed several low to mid 20 inch walleye. A few decent sized perch (10 inches plus) were caught by perch boaters this week. Live bait in 15 to 22 feet of water landed the most fish. Time of day did not seem to make a difference. - Adrian Meseberg, fisheries technician, Green Bay
Walleye fishing was very good out of Suamico River Boat Launch with multiple boats coming in with limits or just short of a limit. Though the fishing was good the overall number of boats was low, likely due to high winds and scattered thunderstorms present. Anglers were getting good numbers of walleye in the 15 to 18 inch range with one boat catching four fish over 22 inches. The biggest fish measured from the Suamico River Launch was 26 inches and weighed over 6.5 pounds. Along with the walleyes anglers were catching freshwater drum and channel catfish. The channel catfish was 25 inches and weighed a healthy 6 pounds. The best presentation seemed to be trolling crawler harnesses in 18-20 feet of water. Water temperatures were in the low 70s and water clarity was 2-3 feet. - Derek Apps, fisheries technician, Green Bay
Door County - The bite early in the week was very slow and the majority of salmon being caught were of smaller size. Following the turnover of the lake, fish harvest drastically changed and became dominated by rainbow trout. Later in the week fishing pressure slowed due to hazardous winds, but anglers willing to battle the waves had success. Most chinook salmon caught exceeded 20 pounds from Baileys Harbor up to Washington Island. The smallmouth bass bite picked up this past week and anglers were catching bass of all sizes throughout Door County on a variety of lures and presentations. Many of the smallmouth bass being reported have been in very good condition and are feasting on gobies. Decent numbers of yellow perch are being caught off of Little Sturgeon Bay and Sawyer Harbor. Many of the perch are on the smaller side so exercising patience has been important. Fishing live bait just off of the bottom of the bay produced the best catch rates and kept round gobies off the hook. Perch measured this week ranged between 6.7 and 8 inches and averaged 7.2 inches.
Kewaunee County - Salmon and trout were caught from the piers in Kewaunee and Algoma throughout the night as predatory fish followed Alewives nearshore. Anglers had success using glow spoons, spawn sacs, and Alewives. High water levels due to heavy rains caused the mixing of warm Kewaunee/Ahnapee River with cold Lake Michigan water. These mixing zones attracted some large hungry fish. Anglers trolling had luck in a very wide range of depths. Early in the week anglers were bringing back good numbers of very large brown trout (up to 25 pounds) in 20-50 feet of water. Salmon and rainbow trout were being caught shallower than normal, but as the week progressed fish were moving to deeper water.
Manitowoc County - Fishing was great with a variety of chinook, coho, rainbows, browns and lakers being caught over the weekend including chinooks over 20 pounds and cohos over 10 pounds. Fish were being caught from the piers and many boats were finding fish in shallow water. The storm Sunday morning really mixed up the area near shore and making fishing less productive. There is still plenty of cool water close to shore, with any luck the fishing will pick back up after the water settles. - Benjamin Thome, creel clerk, Mishicot
Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area
Whitefish Dunes State Park - Due to above average water levels, there is limited beach compared to prior years. On high wave days, visitors can expect very limited or no sand areas. The best way to access the beach is to hike the red trail behind the nature center and use the stairs to get down to the beach. Swimming is recommended in the designated area by the buoys and for swimmers to stay out of the rip current area which is in front of the Nature Center. Lots of bird activity at the bird feeder such as the downy, hairy, red-bellied woodpeckers, nuthatches, cardinals and chickadees. Several white pelicans have been spotted along the shoreline this week. Dune thistle, a threatened species in Wisconsin, is also blooming along the shoreline dunes. The trails are lined with thimbleberries that are starting to ripen to a bright red color. They are edible but very tart and crumble after picking. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - Wet summer has left trout streams in very good shape with trout still biting well on spinners. No current update on local lake fishing. Fawns now the size of a big dog and are out and about with mom at all times. Blackberry crop look to be one for the ages, still need timely rains to maximize yields. Looks like it's going to be hot this weekend, good time to hit the water. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Milwaukee County - Prairie wildflowers such as blue vervain, gray-headed coneflower, and rattlesnake master are in bloom, with dragonflies, damselflies, and butterflies all over during our warm summer days. Bring your favorite ID book out with you this weekend and see if you can learn something new! Also, keep your eyes open for raspberries and blackberries on your hiking trips. They are ripe and can provide a quick snack on the road. But leave some for the wildlife, too! On your travels this weekend, make sure to bring extra water. The heat index in our area is supposed to be in the 90s and low 100s, and your safety should always be your number one concern when in the field. Young wild animals are traveling with mom or on their own throughout the county, and most songbirds have fledglings outside the nest. If you see a young wild animal you think is injured, visit the DNR webpage and search keyword "Keep Wildlife Wild" to decide what to do, or search keyword "rehab" to find a local wildlife rehabilitator. Remember that most young wild animals you see have mom nearby or are safely exploring their surroundings, a natural part of life. - Dianne Robinson, wildlife biologist, Milwaukee
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit - Prairies continue to change, week by week. This past week, plant species that have bloomed for the first time this year include spiked blazing star, rattlesnake master, winged loosestrife (a small, native species), American germander, and ditch stonecrop. Other species that started blooming one or more weeks ago, but have now reached their peak are black-eyed susan, swamp milkweed, showy tick trefoil, and Virginia mountain mint. Species that will begin blooming during this next week include Joe-pye weed and boneset. The most noticeable changes in the animal kingdom this week have been the insects. Cicadas have begun their raspy drone that serves as a mating call, and a few species of grasshoppers and crickets are singing love songs, as well. In a day, one can see dozens of fritillaries, an orange butterfly with brown markings, speeding above the prairie and many more black swallowtails than earlier in the season. Thankfully, we've seen a modest number of monarch butterflies, whose numbers have declined in North America by nearly 80 percent in recent years. However, the most exciting observation this past week was of a dogbane leaf beetle, an iridescent, golden and green beetle that is dependent upon the dogbane plant for its life cycle. Surely, this little creature is as beautiful as anything in the world! - Todd Miller, assistant naturalist guide
Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee
Sheboygan County - Both north and south piers had high fishing pressure on Saturday afternoon, but relatively few fish were caught other than a few coho and a couple chinook. The piers remained on the slower side on Sunday morning, but more chinooks were caught and less coho. Alewives seem to be the most successful bait. Some anglers were out for many hours this weekend, sometimes overnight, to get the most out of the end of the nine-day Salmon-a-Rama tournament. The south pier was closed on Monday but has since reopened. The boats did well all weekend catching a variety of chinook, coho, and rainbows. Most boats were fishing around 60 ft. of water and using flasher and fly combinations.
Ozaukee County - The Port Washington Fish Day festival slowed down fishing pressure on Saturday. It picked back up on Sunday morning with some smaller sized brown trout caught in Coal Dock Park near the power plant discharge and many coho caught on the north pier. North pier fishing got even better on Monday morning, with many more coho brought in as well as a few chinooks. The bait of choice was live alewives; some anglers tried fishing with spoons but were mostly unsuccessful. A few anglers walked off with their limits by late morning. The boats did pretty well this weekend landing about two to three fish per person on average. Mostly coho were caught, and many chinook as well, along with some rainbow trout. Trollers have mostly been staying shallower in 15-60 feet of water. Flasher and fly combinations were most popular and some anglers used spoons.
Milwaukee County - Three days of 10-20 mph west winds (July 12-14) pushed the warm water along the lakefront offshore and pulled cold water in from the lower layers of the water column. Early in the week a large number of anglers caught their limit of trout and salmon on McKinley pier, but by Thursday the water temperature dropped down to 45 degrees and the fish moved out. On Friday the winds switched, the water warmed to 52, the bait fish returned, and anglers on the pier started to land trout and salmon again. A large number of kings were landed on the pier Friday night by anglers casting white gulp in the north gap. The coho were "hitting like crazy" on Saturday morning according to some of the pier anglers. A few perch were landed during the week in the McKinley Marina by the Coast Guard Station memorial bridge, in the Lake Shore State Park lagoons, and along the rocks on McKinley Pier. A few browns (up to 12 pounds) and small rainbows were landed under the Hoan with spoons, and shiners under slip bobbers. On the south side, a perch angler on the South Metro Pier caught and released a brown trout and a couple of 4-5 pound coho while casting small homemade spoons. Large schools of bait fish were seen in shallow water along the South Metro Pier during the week. A few nice size perch were landed on the Grant Park shoreline by anglers casting jigs & plastic and fathead minnows under slip bobbers. Nice catches of coho, kings, and freshwater drum were landed on the lake side of the Oak Creek Power Plant pier. Some of the anglers landed their limits of fish (coho and kings). Trollers out of McKinley continue to land nice catches of trout and salmon from the water filtration plant to the Capitol Drive TV towers, and many fish have been caught in 30-65 feet of water. Boats out of Bender Park landed large numbers of kings and coho while trolling in shallow water in front of the Oak Creek power plant. The South Shore boat ramp reopened on Tuesday, July 19 after the South Shore Frolics.
Racine County - Racine trollers typically caught three to 10 salmon or trout this week. There was no specific depth that seemed to catch the most fish, and anglers reported fishing anywhere from 30 feet out to 130 feet of water. No specific lures stood out as being better, and baits were run from 15 feet down to the bottom. Trollers caught a lot of rainbows, coho, browns, lakers and kings. Boats that got an early start (3-5 a.m.) did much better than boats that went out later. The water temperature at the surface varied day by day, from 58-60 degrees. Shore anglers fishing from the piers in Racine had a good week. Most anglers caught coho on live alewives or spoons. Some also caught a few browns, rainbows, and kings as well. Anglers that caught their fish on spoons said that they can only get a fish to bite on smaller spoons ( half ounce or smaller). Only two perch were reported caught from the pier this week, and both were caught on worms. The water temperature varied on the pier as well, 60-68 degrees.
Kenosha County - Kenosha trollers reported catching up to 10 fish per trip this week, with boats starting early (3-5 a.m.) typically catching more fish than boats that started fishing later. Trollers mostly caught rainbows, kings, coho, and a few lake trout and brown trout from 20 feet of water out to 140 feet. Anglers fishing from the piers and shore in Kenosha caught good numbers of brown trout, a few coho, and even a king. Most fish were caught on either small spoons ( half ounce or smaller) or live alewives, but a few fish were caught on tube jigs as well.. The water temperature ranged from 60-68 degrees this week.
Plymouth DNR Service Center area
Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - Marsh viewing opportunities are excellent for egrets, herons, pelicans, black terns and a host of other wetland birds using the Theresa Marsh Wildlife Area sub-impoundments located along Highway 28 just west of Highway 41. Bald eagles are also frequently seen in the area. Stop logs were removed from the Theresa Marsh dam to draw down the water level about a foot and a half in the "main pool" area above the dam for the rest of the summer to allow for management activities in the marsh and the growth of moist soil plants on the mud flats upstream, providing food for fall migrant birds when the marsh is re-flooded in late August and early September. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford
South Central Region
West Central Region
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - Farmers are harvesting their second crop of hay for the year. These cut fields are excellent areas to look for wild turkey broods. Hungry broods frequent cut hay fields searching for abundant and nutritious insects, especially grasshoppers and crickets. Many people are reporting fawn sightings, as fawns are roaming farther away from their mothers. In fact, do not be surprised to see fawns by themselves, especially during the day. Fawns are also beginning to feed on plants, relying less and less on their mother's milk as they continue to grow and mature. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua